Designing for Personal Safety

What does personal safety mean to me?

When you see this questions, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Perhaps the PPEs that we wear during a pandemic, or the iconic protective wear that comes in orange, or even the equipment you wear you wear when riding a bike. On Wikipedia, personal safety means:


Initial Secondary Research

With more research across a widespread of topics under personal safety such as social affiliation, public engagement, and natural disasters, I came to some interesting insights:

  • A major part of making people feel safe is allowing them to feel empowered and confident.
  • To design to protect against wicked problems, such as environmental issues, there are “direct” means of doing so such as wearing a mask, and also “indirect” means that attacks the grander problems, such as how to stop companies from polluting.

Concept mapping

I decided to my further decide on my area of focus by concept mapping:

Concept mapping both areas of interest to decide direction
Current landscape/inspiration

Stakeholders & Interview Questions

Stress affects every age group and gender, so I want to narrow my target users to young adults (18–25). I would be able to use my current college setting as my primary research and focus on the stresses mainly experienced at this age.

  • How do people relieve their stress? (talking, physical contact, meditating, relaxing, eating, sleeping…)
  • How does one feel when they are mentally stressed? (angry, depressed, hopeless…)
  • 10 male, 11 female
  • Most people talked about having some form of depression including being anxious, worried/uncertainty, restless, unhappy, isolation/loneliness. 2 people mentioned stress eating and gaining weight. Other responses said they felt angry, lack of patience, apathetic, trouble sleeping.
  • 13/21 people ranked their frequently of stress to 3–4 (8 people for 4).
  • When people talked about an experience of high stress moments, 13/18 people stalked about their school work. This included having heavy amounts of workload, not understanding how to do work, having multiple responsibilities, having no breaks. 4 people mentioned the recent elections stressed them out.
  • 8/18 people’s solutions to relieving stress was talking it out with others. Other responses were evenly spread out with about 2–3 people each: watching videos and gaming, sleeping, music, eating/cooking, reading, exercising, meditation.
  • What people would do in the future to improve the situation, 9/18 stated it would help to talk to others (2 specifically talked about getting therapy). The rest talked about taking more time for themselves away from media exposure and more on self reflection/self care (including spending more time on oneself such as cooking, sleeping etc.). One response was really interesting where they said that they would want to engage in a new local community that shared her career interest.
  • Distracting mind from current stress with visuals, sounds, and taste
  • Pausing work/taking break for self reflection/care


From my online survey, I was able to receive more specificities on where stress was coming from for my user group and commonly how people relieve their stress. And it’s not a surprise that since all of the responses were from college students, that they were suffering stress mainly from school work. Now I want to do some longer interviews and start to find patterns amongst a couple of college students and see what triggers their mental stress.

  • What do you do when you want to relieve stress? How often do you use this solution? What does doing these activities make you feel?
  • What are some activities you do by yourself to relieve stress? Describe the activity. What does doing this make you feel?
  • If talking to people helped you relieve stress, who did you talk with? What’s your relation to them?
  • What did you talk with them about? What kind of replies were most memorable to you?
  • What kind of person to person connection gives you relief the most? (Physical touch, validation, compliments, empathy…)

Industrial/Experience Designer, Human Computer Interactions and Physical Computing at Carnegie Mellon University